Tomorrow is my birthday. This year, instead of stepping aside and aging gracefully, I've decided that I am going to shake things up a bit and not turn 35. I've already asked my mom for permission, and she said that this was O.K. Actually, she said "Ask your father," but years of being Ken and Sherry's daughter has taught me that this is just part of their good cop-bad cop routine, and "Ask your father" really means "O.K."
Obviously, if I still need to ask my mom for permission, then I am nowhere near ready to turn 35, right? As an alternative, I was considering pulling a Benjamin Button and turning 33. I could also go the less-difficult-but-just-as-acceptable Groundhog Day route and stay 34. Either way, I wouldn't have to suffer through my annual 2 1/2 months of cougar status, until Eric catches up with me on November 7 (during this period he takes great pleasure in reminding me of my advanced age on a daily basis.)
It's not that I feel old. I even still get carded on occasion--providing the room is extremely dark and the bartender is legally blind. I'm just not done with being 34 yet. This year seemed to fly by in an exceptionally speedy manner, and I didn't quite accomplish all of my goals, some of which are ridiculously lofty with an achievement factor of nearly zero percent. Oh well, I guess I'll need to transfer 'Become best friends with Gwen Stefani' over to next year's list.
Despite the fact that I'm not rolling out the red carpet for 35, I'm more than willing to make the sacrifice and open a few presents, all in the name of tradition of course. That's just the kind of person I am. And if you haven't gotten me anything yet, I promise that I won't hold it against you if your gift arrives a few days late. Like I said, I'm a trooper.
Birthdays are one of the few days each year when people tend to allow themselves to eat whatever they desire, and I'm certainly no exception. For the majority of the other 364 days, my diet consists largely of carrots, hummus, butternut squash soup, Crystal Lite lemonade, and Golden Spoon frozen yogurt, so you can only imagine how ready I am for a steak and ice cream (not together, of course.)
If I could eat one food for the rest of my life and not worry about gaining an ounce, that food would be ice cream, so that is what I always have for dessert on my birthday. Not just any ice cream. I'm not a fan of Ben & Jerry's or Cold Stone-esque varietals. I find that their butterfat content is much too high, and they are a little too creamy. No, the best store-bought ice cream to me is the brand that I grew up with: Breyer's. Preferably mint chocolate chip, coffee, or strawberry with the real strawberry chunks. Homemade ice cream is another good alternative, because I can control the ingredients, usually mixing a bit of whole milk in with the cream.
This strawberry ice cream is not only close in taste and texture to the Breyer's variety, but it is oh-so-easy to make. This is a no-cook recipe that doesn't contain any eggs, so it is not custardy, and it takes only minutes to mix together. Although it is spectacular on its own, I decided to turn it into homemade ice cream sandwiches, using blondie-like layers on either end. Happy Birthday to me indeed! Here are a few extra tips for making these summery strawberry sandwiches:
- The ice cream sandwiches, before cutting, can be prepared up to one week in advance and frozen in the pan. Wrap the pan in plastic wrap and then in foil.
- Instead of making square-shaped sandwiches, you can also use cookie cutters to make hearts, circles, etc. This will yield fewer sandwiches and waste a bit of the sandwich layers, but you can always use those for snacking!
- The strawberry ice cream will keep for up to 1 1/2 weeks, in an air-tight container, in the freezer.
- Before assembling the sandwiches, allow the ice cream to soften at room temperature.
Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream Sandwiches
Makes about 9
1 pound fresh strawberries, trimmed and halved
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In a large bowl, coarsely mash the strawberries with the sugar, lemon juice, and salt using a potato masher or a fork. Let the mixture stand, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
Add the cream, milk, and vanilla to the bowl and stir to thoroughly blend. Cover the bowl and chill until very cold, 3 hours.
Freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker. Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and place it in the freezer to firm up.
For the Sandwich Layers
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 375F degrees. Butter two 9-inch square baking pans and line them with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang. Butter the foil.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 minutes. Add the egg, egg yolk, and the vanilla. At low speed, add the flour mixture, mixing to combine.
Divide the batter between the 2 pans and spread into thin, even layers. Bake until the layers are golden brown, but still soft, 10-12 minutes. Cool the layers in the pans for about 30 minutes.
Assemble the sandwiches: Spoon the ice cream over 1 of the cooled sandwich layers (as thick as you want the sandwiches to be), and spread it evenly using an offset spatula. Invert the second sandwich layer over the ice cream, pressing it gently to form an even sandwich. Wrap the baking pan in plastic wrap and freeze until firm, about 2 hours.
Transfer the sandwich to a cutting board, lifting by the foil overhang. Cut into squares and serve.